Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Official information released when they don't want you to read it

The scathing report on our elected representatives not reading or heeding the National Intelligence Evaluation of the potential disaster of the Iraqi war no matter what the president said was released on a Friday.

I posted the story here on a Monday, knowing that weekday news is always considered a little more significant, because after all, "nothing happens on the weekend," right?

Friday is when we normally think of going away for the weekend, or partying or meeting with friends and family or just hanging out.

We don't think of significant news breaking, unless it's a weather crisis, but that's exactly when "news" is released that those in charge of the release don't want it read by all that many people. They want to say they've released the important information, but it's not their fault if you're not aware of it or if you didn't read it.

I've asked so many people I've met (who don't know about or read my blog) about the NIE report and to a person, they were not aware of it. They went home to do their homework, however, because they cared.

Interestingly, the most watched local TV news program is usually Sunday night because everyone's home, getting ready for the week and sitting around the television set together.

But local TV newsrooms ordinarily have skeleton crews on over the weekend because their sense is that "nothing's going on." Heck, CNN, MSNBC and other cable news station seem to reflect that same sensibility. To which I say, "huh?"

Well, yeah. Most government and business offices are closed - you know, the ones that that spoon feed the media most of the news they carry, for sure. But the issues don't go away; problems don't subside, malfeasance and stories worth an investigation or a little extra air time don't take the weekend off.

Um, in fact, wouldn't that be the best time to present a feature, in-depth story that there's no time to air during the week?

TV stations may point to generally lower ratings on Fridays and Saturdays, sure - but my hunch is that if there were a real kick-ass news program, people would watch. Like, lots of people. As it is, if it bleeds it leads or the news reported is just the stuff that falls in front of them like truck and car crashes, fires, shootings, vandalism, etc.

Yes it's "news," but those things can be reported by media of record such as newspapers, leaving television to dig in and get their hands dirty looking at everything from organized crime to corporate fraud to real news. Like, say, a politician who is actually working on behalf of us voters and who is getting something done!

In fact, 60 Minutes counted on the idea that they could get a huge audience of people interested in more complex and in-depth stories for decades. News stories that covered subjects the audience had never heard of before!

And for much, if not most of that time? That program drew more viewers than any other program on television. Rated #1, week after week.

While it's still highly rated, I'm sorry to say I feel as if it's lost most of its fire in the belly urgency to kick a tires and take names and bring significant matters to our attention.

I only know real news - information we should know and knowledge we should have instead of meaningless "information" - is going on all the time and I would much rather see it instead of all the white noise that is reported.

It's just a matter of being aware of where it's happening and how it affects us, that it needs to be reported and making certain staff reporters are there to cover it instead of another shooting, car crash, fire, and other news that is only news because there happens to be a picture to show.

Interestingly, there are a number of ways news organizations now invite you to tell them what's going on because they don't know. Proof of that is local news ratings across the board and across the US are universally as low as they've ever been.

I hope people take advantage of that opportunity because their priorities may not be yours, so we need to let them know. I'll never forget hearing about a story that took the nation by storm three days after it occurred because the reporters initially hearing about it were too young to remember its initial event, so they didn't understand its significance. If a 40 year-old producer for ABC hadn't been there, we still would not have known about it.

Younger staffs are less experienced and knowledgeable, yes, but they're also way cheaper. And today is definitely the day of news according to the bottom line.

As for news those in power want to have certain important news get by us ... be on the lookout for significant stories that are released Friday or over the weekend in hopes they will either be overlooked by media or that stations won't have the weekend staff to investigate them or whether they are reported in such a way that their importance will be neither understood nor perceived by media's already ill-informed American audiences.

What this means is that you can't expect to be spoon fed real knowledge by the commercial or "public" media, you have to be willing to seek it out. It is out there, you just need to be responsible for finding it - or at least letting media know what's going on so others can discover it as well.

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